By Christopher White
The Tablet National Correspondent
Jesuit priest Father James Martin’s invitation to speak at Theological College, the National Seminary at the Catholic University of America, has been rescinded following the publication of his new book encouraging Catholic outreach to the LGBT community.
“Since the publication of his book, Building a Bridge, Theological College has experienced increasing negative feedback from various social media sites regarding the seminary’s invitation…in the best interest of all parties, the best decision was made to withdraw the invitation,” the seminary said in a press release.
The decision by Theological College is the latest in a series of cancellations in reaction to Martin’s book, including others by the Order of the Holy Sepulchre and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development.
“What’s most disappointing is what these cancellations say about our Church,” Father Martin told The Tablet. “It’s a sign of the inability of certain Catholics even to consider the possibility that we are called by Jesus to reach out to our LGBT Catholic brothers, sisters, and siblings.”
Martin has been the subject of numerous attacks from Catholics who object that his book does not more faithfully or comprehensively present Church teaching on same-sex relationships. Earlier this month, Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to criticize the book.
Despite such backlash, Father Martin’s book has received praise from the head of the Vatican’s office for family life and other high-ranking Church officials.
The recent cancellations have been driven in large part by social media campaigns organized by Church Militant and Catholic blogger Father John Zulsdorf.
The Church Militant website derides Father Martin for “his promotion and support of homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, transgenderism and progressive-liberal politics.” Michael Voris, founder of Church Militant, has previously admitted his own history of gay relationships, but now maintains he has been “freed from that lifestyle.”
Father Martin, however, argues that such accusations against him are falsehoods.
“This is not about dogma or doctrine: Building a Bridge draws its inspiration from the Catechism, after all. And despite what these absurd sites may claim, it doesn’t go against any Church teaching,” he told The Tablet.
In July of this year, at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ nationwide convocation on “The Joy of the Gospel,” representatives from Church Militant were asked to leave the premises for their fabricated reporting and hostile tactics.
Father Martin told The Tablet that incidentally, none of the cancelled talks were on his LGBT book, but rather on Jesus, the subject of his previous book.
“It’s a sign of how powerful fear is, especially the kind of fear whipped up by social media sites motivated by hatred and homophobia,” said Father Martin.
According to Father Martin, he has spoken on the campus of the Catholic University of America on several previous occasions.
“This decision does not reflect the University’s policy on inviting speakers to campus, nor does it reflect the specific counsel received from the University and leadership,” according to a statement released by the university on Saturday.
“The campaigns by various groups to paint Fr. Martin’s talk as controversial reflect the same pressure being applied by the left for universities to withdraw speaker invitations,” said John Garvey, President of The Catholic University of America.
“Universities and their related entities should be places for the free, civil exchange of ideas. Our culture is increasingly hostile to this idea. It is problematic that individuals and groups within our Church demonstrate this same inability to make distinctions and to exercise charity,” said Garvey.
“Rev. Gerald McBrearity, P.S.S., rector of the seminary, reached the decision in the interest of avoiding distraction and controversy…in no way does this decision signal approval or agreement with the comments or accusations that the various social media sites have made over the recent weeks,” according to the seminary press release.
“These aren’t websites or blogs motivated by love. Just a glance at their invective will tell you that. No, they traffic in hatred and they foment fear. Fear of possible protests, fear of controversy, fear of listening,” said Father Martin.
“Perfect love drives out fear, as we learn in the New Testament,” he added. “But perfect fear drives out love. But I’m not deterred or even disturbed.”
Related: Bishop Defends Father Martin
WASHINGTON (CNS) – A U.S. bishop vigorously defended Jesuit Father James Martin when a prominent U.S. seminary canceled an invitation.
“This campaign of distortion must be challenged and exposed for what it is – not primarily for Father Martin’s sake but because this cancer of vilification is seeping into the institutional life of the church,” said San Diego, Calif., Bishop Robert W. McElroy in a vigorous defense published by America magazine.
“The concerted attack on Father Martin’s work has been driven by three impulses: homophobia, a distortion of fundamental Catholic moral theology, and a veiled attack on Pope Francis and his campaign against judgmentalism in the church,” wrote Bishop McElroy.
The Jesuit priest said the attacks included “a storm of phone calls, emails and messages to Theological College, which included, I was told, people screaming at the receptionists who answered the phone. In the end, they felt that the expected protests and negative publicity would distract from Alumni Day.”
Father Martin was to speak at an Oct. 4 symposium celebrating the 100th anniversary of the seminary’s founding.
“The organizers were all apologetic and in some cases more upset than I was,” said the author.